Saturday, 25 February 2017

Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth restaurant review 2017

It’s been just over twelve months since my previous visit to Restaurant James Sommerin. In that time, they’ve been awarded a well-deserved Michelin star and named AA Restaurant of the Year for Wales.

My last meal was pretty frigging spectacular so this time around it was impressive to see how Sommerin has pushed on even further with his cooking – bolder flavours and more striking presentation featured throughout.

We ordered the 14-course chef’s table (£150). Chatting with the team during service was great fun and it was interesting to hear how Sommerin has travelled extensively to 2 and 3 Michelin star restaurants during the last 12 months to help take his cooking to the next level.

As the alcohol took its toll, my recollection of each dish became a little hazier. So here’s my best guess…

Light garlic foam was topped with mixed toasted seeds whilst mini gougères were filled with tangy Pant ys Gawn goats cheese cream. 

Crisp rice puffs were dotted intense taramasalata and burnt onion powder.

A warm wholemeal and laverbread roll and a caramelised onion wheel were served with house whipped butters, including a lush laverbread flavour. 

Onto our first course proper and it was a beauty - sweet white crab meat, fragrant apple foam, apple batons and curried parsnip puree.

A delightfully smoked venison tartare was served with a sliver of earthy cep, carrot puree and mayonnaise. The smoked meat could have dominated but all the flavours balanced beautifully. This was arguably the standout dish of the meal.

Slivers of salt cod carpaccio were topped with a cream sauce heady with rosemary, ridiculously fine diced vegetables and salty pearls of caviar.

Liquorice is an ingredient that can overwhelm but when served in the right proportions I’m a huge fan. Tender rabbit loin, liquorice sauce and mushroom butter was an interesting but hugely delicious combination.

Meaty monkfish was served with curry puree, salty samphire and broad beans.

A bowl of artichoke and duck was gourmet comfort food at its best – buttery artichoke puree, crisp and chewy deep fried artichokes, shreds and pieces of unctuous confit duck and a generous scattering of artichoke crisps were spooned down with gusto.

Next it was all about the bisque – langoustine soup was packed full of cream and heady with shellfish. A light fillet of seabass and pieces of artichoke, broccoli and carrot were coated in the seafoody goodness.

A dainty morsel of soft and fatty caramelised foie gras was counterbalanced by crisp and sweet nuggets of sweetcorn and granola. We washed it down with a glass of dessert wine. Oofh.

A long proved sourdough (30 hours I think) was complex in flavour with a super dark and toasty crust. Whipped beef dripping butter topped with crisp beef bits is the kind of thing that I’ll be daydreaming about for months to come. 

A 72-hour cooked piece of brisket was packed with flavour but a touch dry. The dish is still a work in progress and Sommerin is hoping to source meat with a higher fat content. Caramelised baby onions, chanterelles, soft parsnips and a stonkingly glossy sauce completed the plate. 

A bit of dry ice wizardry created the aroma of lemons whilst our next dish was served. 

Tangy and creamy lemon tart ice cream sat atop macerated blueberries, soft Italian meringue and shortbread pieces. 

Textures of raspberry combined fresh tasting sorbet, frozen drupelets, meringue and coulis served with a rich set chocolate custard. 

A canny play on rhubarb and rice pudding saw a set vanilla custard (a little too firm for me) topped with bang on poached rhubarb, rice pudding ice cream and crisp rice puffs. 

We rounded off the meal on the most indulgent note – soft sweet baked bramley apple, velvety caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream and flakes of puff pastry conjured memories of tarte tatin. 

This was an epic meal of a seriously high standard.

If you’re planning a trip to a very special restaurant then I can see no reason to travel any further than Penarth. If Sommerin carries on at this rate then he’ll have Wales’s first two Michelin-starred establishment.

The Details:

Address - Restaurant James Sommerin, The Esplanade, Penarth CF64 3AU
Telephone - 029 20706559
Web -


  1. Did you pay for the meal
    although looks very good
    does it warrant cost

    1. Yes, I paid for the meal. I always include a disclosure in the post if a meal is complimentary. We bought a Travelzoo voucher so it was £100 a head instead of £150. Otherwise, we probably would have gone for the 9 course tasting menu instead.

  2. I visited this restaurant two years ago and have to say everything from service to food was well below par. I very much doubt the Michelin star is anything more than political as the trip advisor reviews cite the same problems we had when we visited, but hey each to his (or her) own!

    1. @Xxiolanthxx - It seems a bit harsh to judge if a restaurant is Michelin star-worthy based on a visit two years ago. I've found improvements in the cooking with every visit.